Recommendations for Building an Apple Vision Pro App

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Apple Vision Pro was unveiled in June 2023 and will be available at all Apple stores on February 2, 2024. But the device is still gathering mixed reactions. Some call it a disappointment, others see it as a breakthrough device. But the fact is that creators who want to be early movers into the Apple Vision Pro ecosystem need to act fast if they want to take a jab at developing an app for AVP (Apple Vision Pro).

The Dilemma 

According to the sources close to Apple, only 400,000 Vion Pro headsets will be produced in 2024. So why go through the whole app development process for a device that will have such limited distribution?

Well, AVP could bring a breath of fresh air to the still-immature XR market. And even with limited device numbers, it seems like Apple knows what it’s doing. A limited number of devices and a high price tag is a strategy Apple has already successfully implemented with their early desktop computers that cost US $1,298 (the equivalent of $6,268 today). Apple plays on exclusivity that can fuel the sales for the next generation of devices. It also seems like a part of the diversification strategy, where Apple sells more wearables (like Apple Watch or AirPods) as iPhone sales slow down due to market saturation. Despite being a “pro” device, AVP caters to a B2C market but in a “light” way — offering immersive experiences to seated users and professionals looking for collaborative tools, productivity, entertainment, and communication apps. Even industry giants like Meta (formerly Facebook) have not achieved the kind of impact that this device could potentially bring, as evident from the Quest store's performance, where most apps are games or fitness apps. Meta tried to position  Quest as a tool for professionals but it just didn’t work out:

Opportunity Amidst Risk

It's crucial to recognize that the limited production of the Vision Pro presents both an opportunity and a risk. But as AVP fits into Apple’s larger strategy of multi-domain selling (including wearable devices), it “has to” do good on the market. We can assume that Apple will do a lot to make sure first users fall in love with it.

Apple’s experience with the App Store might be crucial to Vision Pro’s success. Users today have access to over 123 times more apps than they did at the end of 2008, and annual downloads on the App Store increased 15-fold between 2009 and 2022. 

Apple has a long history of managing the app market, running QA processes, and creating guidelines for developers. They will most likely introduce a rigorous QA process for apps created for AVP. And it can be good news. One of the challenges that the XR market is struggling with is the monetization of XR apps, and Quest is a good example of it. Before apps can be launched in the Quest Store they go through something developers call “purgatory” where they wait to be approved and pushed into the main store. And the results are not satisfying. According to Bloomberg, “since Meta’s VR app store launched eight years ago, developers have only generated about $1.5 billion. And that’s despite Meta having sold 20 million Quests, a number the Vision Pro will likely take years to reach.”

However, unlike Meta, Apple has running an app store in its DNA. So how to make sure the AVP might open a gate to a new market/user and gain traction?

The Apple Way 

If we can learn anything from App Store history, the right placement and rating at App Store can greatly contribute to the app’s success. When the first mobile apps were launched, even the silliest apps could generate revenue. Now Apple estimates that in 2022 the App Store ecosystem facilitated more than $1.1 trillion in billings and sales worldwide. At nomtek, we gained significant experience back then in developing native iOS apps and getting through the whole App Store’s approval process. Not to say that it was or is particularly easy — Apple is famous for its QA processes, but we can assume that the AVP Store will be even more rigorous. So building apps that will be “just fun” without bringing much value to the users might not be enough. 

Developing an app for Vision Pro requires a carefully crafted strategy to ensure it resonates with users and gains traction. The AVP Store might be more selective than the mobile App Store was initially, necessitating a focus on quality over quantity. A smaller number of AVP users (due to production limits) also means faster market saturation.This small user base dynamic demands that subpar apps quickly fade away, while well-designed and innovative ones receive ample support from Apple.

One of the keys to success in app development lies in identifying the "spatial moment" — the unique XR interaction that resonates with users. It’s similar to mobile moments that we looked for when mobile apps were gaining popularity. A mobile moment happens when a user pulls out their smartphone to complete an urgent action, i.e., interact with your product. We can speculate that a spatial moment in AVP apps will include strong design and mixed-reality features.

Apple knows its users well so drawing from Apple's strengths and recommendations is essential. Choosing a tech stack that will allow you to fully explore the potential of AVP and its Windows, Volumes, and Spatial applications is a critical step in the development process.

Taking all of the above into consideration, we’ve gathered recommendations on what apps can achieve success on AVP.

Productivity in the New Realm

AVP is a headset made for mature users. The Vision Pro's distinction from the Metaverse and Quest’s arena might also be its target audience. AVP is directed to creative professionals seeking new experiences and freedom and that dictates a departure from typical gaming-centric approaches. While the B2C XR landscape is currently dominated by games, well-being apps, and some e-commerce ventures, productivity remains relatively underrepresented. The Vision Pro's identity as a professional device opens doors for productivity apps to thrive, offering users mature experiences that align with their needs. We can speculate now is the time to work on porting existing productivity apps to AVP and creating new ones that will harvest the power of spatial computing.

Spatial experiences in Apple Vision Pro. Source: Apple

Apple's Ecosystem: Shared Moments

Another idea for a viable AVP app is any app that integrates into Apple's ecosystem and brings the potential for shared moments across both mobile and spatial dimensions. Developers can explore this synergy to create applications that bridge the gap between these realms, allowing users to seamlessly transition between their devices. But a mobile moment might not necessarily translate into a spatial one. Each device has a unique environment in which the user will use the app — AVP is a headset designed to be used at home or in any enclosed space, with a battery pack that limits certain types of movements. It’s essential to find spatial moments that consider the external environment of the user. But we can safely assume that a successful iPad productivity app might have the potential to gain similar success in AVP if done right. The minimum version would be creating a windows version of the app with some immersive features.

Even porting an app made for Quest or Oculus to AVP might require a completely new approach: AVP, for example, has no controllers and uses head pose and eye-tracking technology instead. AVP also offers an attempt to get us closer to mixed reality features (so far the Apple glasses are not see-through), something we don’t get in other popular headsets. So building an app for AVP will also not be easily translated into other devices but it might be an effort that will pay off.

Navigating Apple's Quality Assurance Process

Apple's rigorous quality assurance process can be both a challenge and an opportunity. While its specificities are yet to be fully experienced in the context of the Vision Pro, aligning with partners possessing iOS and XR experience could significantly ease the journey.

Embrace the Opportunity

In conclusion, the Vision Pro presents an intriguing opportunity for app developers, even within the constraints of its limited production. To take advantage of this opportunity try to:

  1. Create or port an app aligned with an AVP potential user — that means focusing on productivity, entertainment, or communications applications.
  2. Focus on bringing value for the end-user — look for spatial moments that will create an app that leverages the device’s immense content-viewing capabilities
  3. Use Apple’s recommendations — from design to tech stack, choose a toolset that takes advantage of Apple’s differentiators and build a visually stunning app
  4. Work with experts in iOS and XR apps development — work with teams fluent in navigating Apple’s Q&A processes and knowing the constraints in AR/VR app development

By leveraging Apple's experience, tapping into the XR market's unfulfilled potential, and strategically crafting apps that cater to Vision Pro's unique strengths and target audience, developers can carve a path to success in this evolving landscape. As the XR market continues to evolve, those who dare to embrace the Vision Pro challenge might just find themselves at the forefront of a new wave of technological innovation.

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